Magnus Carlsen is almost sure of becoming the next chess world champion after he won for the third time in the World Championship match in Chennai against Viswanathan Anand on Thursday. In a sharp Nimzo-Indian, the 43-year-old Indian got a nice attacking position and had his chances, but there was never a clear mate. At some point Anand lost his way in the complications and blundered; on move 28 he had to resign and so Carlsen has increased his lead to 6-3. The 22-year-old Norwegian needs only a draw tomorrow to win the title.
After nine of the twelve games at the 2013 World Championship, only a miracle can save Vishy Anand. On Thursday the reigning champ fought for his last serious chance and got a promising position out of the opening. However, his decision to trade rooks over the a-file was criticised by some 2700 grandmasters on Twitter. After that, White's attack turned out to be dangerous, but not decisive. Carlsen played a lot of only moves, and would have emerged with a small advantage if Anand hadn't blundered away the game in one move.
As was expected, Anand avoided another Berlin Ruy Lopez and instead went 1.d4 (which was received with an applause by the audience!). Carlsen played the solid Nimzo-Indian Defense, and then Anand chose one of the sharpest possible variations: the Sämisch with 4.f3, which he had played once before in a World Championship match, against Vladimir Kramnik in 2008 in Bonn, Germany.
“I needed to change the course of the match drastically. That's why I kind of went for this. I had a rest day to kind of get familiar with all this material because it's a very complicated line. I had to go for something like this. I still think I had to do this and this was the right choice, I have no regrets for that,” said Anand at the press conference.
Especially after the move 10.g4 Anand was praised by many of his colleagues on Twitter. In a game he couldn't afford to lose or even draw, the World Champion had managed to create an unbalanced position with chances for both sides (on different flanks) — just what he needed.
At some point White's attack looked very dangerous. Carlsen admitted that he was scared: “Basically all the time. The white pawns looked really menacing but at the same time I was trying to calculate as well as I could and I couldn't find a forced mate.”
The Norwegian was having a tough day at the office. “From the opening it was clear that it was going to be extremely unbalanced and I ran a serious danger of getting mated, which I hadn't in previous games. I just had to deal with the situation, try to create counterplay. It was a really tough game.”
On move 23 Anand needed to make an important decision: how to continue the attack? Moves like f6, Qf4 or Nh5 all looked nice. He was enjoying a considerable time advantage — for the first time in the match — but after a 45-minute think, that time advantage was gone and the World Champion chose a certain line that wasn't the most dangerous. “It seems there wasn't any mate, at least no obvious one,” said Carlsen.
Anand was asked about his long think by press officer Anastasiya Karlovich: “Did you try really to calculate all these complications, all these variations till the end somehow, or was it possible?” Anand replied: “No, I was thinking what to eat tonight.”
Anand moved both his queen and rook into the direction of the enemy king, even though this allowed Black to get a second queen on the board. The idea was that Black needed to give back that queen soon, but this didn't happen as Anand all of a sudden blundered away the game in one move.
Anand's blunder can only be explained by variations, and that's what he did at the press conference. “In the end it was a bit irresponsible, silly, however you want to call it. The thing is, I had been calculating for about 40 minutes...” he said, and then explained that when he noticed 28.Bf1 Qd1 29.Rh4 Qh5 30.Nxh5 gxh5 31.Bh3 Qb6!
with the idea 33.Rxh5 Qb1+ 34.Kg2 Qg6 he “didn't see a way to move forward”. Then he saw the line 28... Qd1 29.Rh4 Qh5 30. Rxh5 gxh5 31.Ne3 Be6 32. Bxd5 and he "briefly got excited", and then after 27...b1Q+ he went and played 28.Nf1. “The problem the knight which was on g3 has just moved, so he won h4, and as soon as I put the knight I realized what I had done.”
For the third time in the match, screaming and yelling could be heard from the Norwegian lounge when Anand resigned. With a 6-3 lead, the job can be considered done for Carlsen, and few Indian chess fans will still believe in Anand's chances. “Of course I'll try but the situation doesn't look very good,” he said himself. But who knows? Friday the 10th match game will be played.
Returning once more to the game: a crucial moment came on move 20, when Carlsen pushed his b-pawn into White's camp. After about twelve minutes of thinking, Anand decided to open the a-file and trade rooks, followed by pushing his own pawns. This decision was criticised online, e.g. by Hikaru Nakamura:
Our own IM Danny Rensch spent a lot of time looking at White's attack after the move 20.f5 and indeed this looks more promising. His analysis can be found below:
Carlsen came to the board first...
...whereas Anand was preparing mentally in the rest area
The players then sat next to each other for a few minutes,
which was also captured by many lenses
Like every day, Anand was greeted with an applause when entering the stage
Of course, the adjustment of the pieces...
...and the daily routine includes a cup of tea at the board...
...and some last-minute concentration before the game
1.d4 this time!
Almost full house again...
...and more spectators in the hotel lobby
Today several groups of school children visited...
...and were happy to pose for photographers